Wood and wheels.
From a garage in Irvine, Stanton Hartsfield and Jason Cohn launched the Sidewalk Shop, a killer collection of vintage boards. There's the Apollo Skateship emblazoned with a rocket ready for liftoff. A classic, bright-red Roller Derby #10. An antique Humco Surfer with spring-loaded suspension.
"These boards have so much to say," says Hartsfield, a longtime collector. "They capture the youth of the time. You wonder, 'Who rode this before me? Was the kid a rebel?'"
Sometime during the 1950s, long before Tony Hawk and the X Games, stir-crazy surfers who needed something to ride on the days when the waves were flat allegedly invented the skateboard. They started taking the wheels off roller skates, nailing them to 2-by-4s and "surfing" through neighborhoods, parks and empty swimming pools. Companies soon caught on and began manufacturing boards with simple logos and graphics.
"It was all about freedom and self-expression," Hartsfield explains.
That symbol of teenage defiance now rides into the present. The Sidewalk Shop showcases its loot online (www.thesidewalkshop.com), at a museum exhibit in Sacramento, and at the Long Beach Flea Market at Veterans Stadium every third Sunday of the month. (Hartsfield and Cohn are working on opening a permanent retail store and showroom.) Enthusiasts can buy, sell and trade boards, which range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, depending on their rarity. Each is 100 percent original, from the rusty bearings to the chipped clay wheels to the rustic artwork on the wood patina.
Most eventually end up displayed on walls in homes and offices, serving as truly awesome conversation pieces for all generations to admire. Hartsfield says his customers are those who are "interested in art and culture, but not interested in being told what art is."
The company's logo, a black crow, is symbolic of what the duo does. "We're scavengers," Hartsfield says, "always picking, hunting and sorting.
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"What one person discards is another person's treasure," he adds. "The Picassos and Warhols that were created to put on the wall in the living room are now giving way to things once relegated to the garage."
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This column appeared in print as "Ollie Art."